SKA calls for proposals

2013-03-18 14:30
Minister of science and technology Derek Hanekom leans on one of the KAT 7 radio antenna dishes on the site of the SKA outside Carnarvon. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Minister of science and technology Derek Hanekom leans on one of the KAT 7 radio antenna dishes on the site of the SKA outside Carnarvon. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) organisation has called for design proposals on the giant science endeavour, as the project gets off the ground.

The SKA will consist of around 3 000 linked radio telescopes that should give astronomers a detailed view of the early universe, about 13 billion years ago.

The project, estimated to cost €1.5bn, announced a request for pre-construction proposals from those who wish to participate in the project.

"This document describes the request for proposals (RfP) package for the SKA telescope development at Element level, the expected response by consortia, and the evaluation process. It also provides a broad description of the work flow expected," the SKA Organisation outlined in its Request for Proposals document.

Engineers in SA are building the MeerKAT (Karoo Array Telescope) which will consist of 64 linked radio antennas and in Australia, they have completed the Askap or Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder.

Contracts

Australia and SA will share the SKA after both countries submitted bids to host the massive project.

Much of the technology that is needed to drive the project does not yet exist and engineers are working with technology companies to develop technologies essential to managing the vast amount of data that the telescopes will generate.

"The kind of things that we're now busy with are looking at the nitty-gritty of what is required to build a huge infrastructure," Dr Bernie Fanaroff, SKA South Africa project director recently told News24.

Contracts for MeerKAT infrastructure and telescopes have been issued, and companies that were involved in the construction of the KAT 7 engineering test bed have won some contracts.

Aurecon has been contracted develop infrastructure solutions for MeerKAT, and BVi Consulting Engineering worked closely with Mesa Solutions to provide a radio quiet power line.

Optic 1 installed the fibre link between Carnarvon and the site and Seacom, FibreCo Telecommunications and Nokia Siemens are all assisting with the data connections and equipment for the project.

Once the SKA is complete in 2024, engineers say that the amount of traffic the instrument will produce is equal to 10 times the global internet traffic.

The MeerKAT instrument will be sensitive enough to detect a cellphone on the moon and the SKA will be able to detect the equivalent of an airport radar signal on a planet 50 light years away.


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